Alec knew what an ass he'd been, driving the one good thing in his miserable life in Broadchurch away and he'd paid for it a hundred times over. The months Rose had been away and he couldn't bring himself to send her a text or even leave a message on her answer phone and he'd been too much of a coward to call her mother and ask how her daughter was.
If he'd known or had an inclination Rose had been pregnant with his child, his son, Zack (they had decided against James, using it as his middle name in favour of a more trendy name) he would never have wallowed in misery for five months or so. It had been the second best day of his life when he had been staring out of his rented chalet's glass door, the home he'd stayed in even after she had left and he'd thought he was hallucinating when Rose was standing there in the rain, back in March.
That was the day the Joe Miller trial had dealt the town a massive blow and he'd been ready to leave, ready to pack up and go find his daughter and was about to order a taxi to take him to the nearest train station. When he'd seen Rose properly, going absent-mindedly into the kitchen and not noticing her baby bump, he'd never been so happy since Daisy was born and the day he'd knocked over Tony in his rush to ask Rose out on a sort of non-date, the day he'd first laid eyes on her.
Then, when she'd been in hospital and Jackie had forced his hand into getting married, he'd realized why he'd not asked her the last three months she'd been back because he'd feared she would take his son and he'd lose them both but here they were, preparing to go join Rose's family for Christmas. Zack was six months old and a handful, Daisy had been for a visit and fussed over him a few times and she was coming for a few days over the new year when they got back from London.
Ellie had of course moved back into the family home shortly after the trial had ended and she'd made up with Beth which Rose was glad about when she'd heard what had happened while she had been making both hers and Alec's lives a misery all that time she'd been hiding in her room in the Tyler house. Alec had tried to keep himself busy during that time, going over statements and suchlike to make sure nothing could go wrong but despite his best efforts, it had gone wrong.
He'd tried his hand at teaching recruits, being told to smarten himself up or find another job by the chief in charge but he'd not told her it was because his then broken heart wasn't in it and all he wanted was Rose by his side again. Getting involved with the Sandbrook case had given him some purpose though he'd got more than he'd bargained for when being accused of having an affair with Miller, while he'd been sleeping and having sex with Rose all the time but he'd come unstuck because Rose had not been there to defend him for the night he'd locked up Joe Miller.
Rose of course had gone crazy when she'd found out and had got on the phone to Pete and then Sharon Bishop had got what she deserved because Pete had agreed they should not have that getting in the way once the baby came along. Rose had regretted not going back to him sooner, letting him go through it all and facing his surgery alone but she'd laughed when Ellie had said Tess had turned up to take him home but he'd confessed she'd been surprised Rose had left.
All that now though didn't matter as he watched Rose feeding Zack, how he'd been persuaded to name his son that, he'd not yet worked out. Rose had told him she had a friend from her old life called Jack and knowing what had happened to the town's newsagent, they'd thought it wise not to name the baby that.
"Do you want me to take him now?" Alec asked her as she put the towel on her shoulder to wait for Zack to get the wind out of him, something he was rather good at and had got Alec unexpectedly a few times, thankfully not on his suit jacket – yet. Zack was now almost on solids but liked his milk.
"Nah, we're good. What time's Ellie and the boys coming by?"
"Soon, I believe, maybe she's having trouble with, 'erm, Fred?"
Rose smiled. All the times Ellie had said he'd minded Fred while she did shopping for him and he'd pushed him around when they'd been working on the Sandbrook case and he only just remembered the boy's name.
"Yeah, well Fred's probably insisting he wraps Zack's present by himself. Speaking of presents, we still have to decide what we're getting him."
"Love, he's too young to even worry about it, it's not like he'll be opening his own, is it?" Alec asked, sitting up on the sofa to take the boy and not forgetting the towel, he'd learned his lesson.
As he settled Zack on his right shoulder, Rose reached over to kiss her son's cheek, then Alec's.
"Aw but he'll be taking notice so let's just get him something educational from the early learning centre? We have Christmas Eve morning to go to the shopping mall while mum looks after him."
"Won't she want to come with us?" he asked, hoping the answer was a big NO.
"Have her missing spending the morning with her grandson? Fat chance. Tony might want to tag along, do ya mind?"
"No love, he's your brother, him I can put up with."
Rose smiled as Zack made a noise Mickey would be proud of.
Half an hour later, the doorbell rang and knowing Ellie loved nothing better than see her boss changing nappies, much to Alec's embarrassment, Rose went to let her in. Ellie smiled.
"I see I've arrived just in time then? Need any help Alec?"
Alec gave her a look that told her where to go, not so politely.
"Hardee!" young Fred squealed at him as he wriggled from Tom's grip, looking at Alec and holding out his arms.
Alec was trying to fasten the blue patterned baby suit and concentrating on lining up the press-studs, unsuccessfully and hoping Rose would rescue him – who made these things?
"Hardee," the boy repeated, looking at Rose.
"Uncle Alec's a bit busy Fred, let's go see if we've any chocolate biscuits, unless he's eaten them all."
"Not before his tea Rose," Ellie warned her.
"Then have tea here, Alec can go to the takeaway, can't you love?"
Alec was all for getting away from this Chinese torture puzzle of fastening his son's suit.
"Seriously Rose, this suit's a bit much, can't you get him some pull on leggings?"
Rose smiled. "Aw but it's not as much fun. The worse cop in Britain not up for the challenge? You've had six months practice."
"Yes but when he was in a smaller size, there were not as many. What are you laughing at Tom?"
Tom was smirking. "Nothing, Uncle Alec." Tom did not usually call him that.
While Alec went to get what everyone wanted from the takeaway, Ellie took Zack, Fred trying to catch the baby's hand as he waved it around and giggling, Ellie asked what she'd bought Alec for Christmas.
"I'm getting him something when we go to London. My mum's looking forward to spending some time with Zack. We had a bit of a miserable time last year, I was upset about Alec and I hate to think what he was like."
"We didn't have an easy time either, trust me, did we Tom?"
Tom had stayed with his aunt and they'd all had dinner there though it had not been very cheerful so Ellie could imagine what the two of them had been like when they weren't talking.
"Don't you regret not telling him Rose?"
"Of course I do, I hate myself for it now and so does Alec, it wasn't easy for either of us, he was all I could think about and we were both stubborn."
"You could have sent him a card."
"He could have sent me one, to let me know he was still around. My mum told me before I left she only knew he was still around because Pete was subsidizing the cost of Alec staying in the chalet. She said Pete wanted to keep an eye on him so if I came to my senses I'd know where he was."
"Quite right too, honestly, the pair of you. Zack has his eyes."
"Yeah, good thing he's not got his beard."
Even Tom laughed.
After the Millers left, Alec went to put Zack in his cot and switched the baby monitor on, a present from Jake. They fooled around on the sofa for a while then Alec had something to ask her.
"Rose, now Zack is six months, don't you think we should be discussing a brother or sister for him?"
"Really? We never discussed having kids, we both went into it without thinking of the consequences that night."
"Well I know that but now we are discussing it, I mean it Rose, I don't want to wait until it's too late to have another one or maybe two?"
"We could have twins?" she suggested, going for his trousers zip.
Tapping her hand, he told her to be serious. "Well why don't you stop whatever you're on and we'll see what happens?"
"Mmm, ok, I will. Do ya need any practice, lover?"
"I don't think so Rose, do you?"
The next morning, Alec was packing the car for the journey up to London and Rose had just finished feeding and getting Zack ready. They were making a couple of stops, that was depending on traffic and Alec was hoping the roads would be quiet since the morning rush would be gone. It was the 23rd which meant the Christmas rush may not have yet started, well he hoped not and had an alternate route already worked out if the motorway was busy. It was a longer way around but at least they would be making more progress than sitting a traffic jam with a screaming baby who would want feeding and changing.
Alec was dead set against Rose getting out on the motorway to get in the back seat or climbing over unless it was an emergency and he hoped Zack would sleep most of the way. Kissing his wife, they set off for the more or less straight route to London, making one stop without any hold-ups and since the baby was still snug in his seat in the outer suit Jackie had sent for him, they decided to carry on instead of stopping again.
They arrived just after one and Alec pulled up in front of the Tyler residence and he swore his mother-in-law had a sixth sense since she was out of the house before he'd put the handbrake on, waiting to get her mitts on her grandson. He'd often wondered why she'd not opted to have another baby herself but that was non of his business, he just didn't like sharing his and Rose's. He often thought back to when Jackie had grabbed hold of him when Rose was about to give birth and made him call the vicar.
It wasn't so much as he didn't want to marry Rose, he was afraid she'd turn him down for being such an idiot in letting her almost get away. Rose had assured him over and over that she would have told him he had a son and let him see the boy but he wouldn't have been able to walk away after just one look, he knew that. He also wouldn't have let Rose just leave again and he wouldn't have done had he not been in the hospital the morning she'd finally had enough.
"Rose! You made good time sweetheart, let me get Zack out for you."
Before either of them could protest, Jackie had the door open and was unfastening the straps. Alec knew he would hardly get him back from her now. Rose was eyeing him as if to say play nicely. Once inside and one of the staff had helped Alec get their cases and presents up to Rose's old room, where a cot had been brought in, he went to find them all in the kitchen. Tony went straight for him.
"Alec! Will you make paper stars with me after lunch?"
"I'm sure your sister is much better at that than I am?"
"You're just tryin' to get out of it Alec. I'll help you Tony. Zack needs feeding soon."
"I can do that for you Rose," Jackie volunteered, glaring at Alec and daring him to object. She knew Alec was possessive of his son.
Alec shook his head and ate the chunky soup that had appeared in front of him. This was his first Christmas with her family and he knew he'd never survive. He was starting to regret not staying at home and just spend it with Rose, having been without her last year, three months after she'd left him, probably having as bad a time as he'd had, alone with only a phone call to his daughter. It was going to be bad enough tomorrow morning, last minute shopping, why had he agreed to that? Then she'd suggested Tony might want to go with them, probably so Jackie could wrap his presents and put them under the rather over-decorated silver tree in the hallway. He'd not even seen the one in the sitting room yet.
He was just thankful it wasn't yet snowing or they could get stuck here after Boxing Day, when they'd planned to leave Zack overnight and go down to Brighton on their own, part of his present to her. He saw Rose was watching him.
"Let mum feed Zack and we'll go unpack and sort out the presents."
"Yes, good idea love. Tony, you must be getting all excited then, having your sister home for the holidays?"
"Yeah, she was all sad last year, weren't you Rose?"
Rose tried to brush it off but Alec knew he'd been to blame for that.
"Well she had you Tony and this year she has Zack, she won't be sad this time."
"No Alec, I'm not sad this year, I've got all I want for Christmas, you and Zack."
"Don't you two get all soppy on me," Jackie interrupted as she tried to finish her soup, one-handed.
"Mum, you can put him down if you want?"
Alec had left the buggy in the kitchen after getting it from the back of the car. He'd found it difficult to assemble after the more simple one Daisy had been put in, sixteen years ago but once he'd got the hang of it, well getting a reward from Rose for getting it right, he never bothered about it now.
Alec had noticed Pete was missing. Pete was still trying to get finished at Torchwood before it got to the late afternoon and seeing his grandson, something after last year he'd never thought he'd have. He thought at one point Rose had been so upset she would think about terminating her pregnancy but he'd never said anything. He was in a meeting with various department heads, Jake and Mickey as anxious to get away to see Rose and the baby as he was.
He'd known Mickey was disappointed when Rose had, without any warning, packed her things and announced she was going to find Alec and she'd only come back to go to the hospital for a scan and get transferred. So they finally agreed to call it a day and Jake and Mickey hung back and waited for him.
"Can't wait to see Rose and Zack," Jake enquired as Mickey studied the floor. "They come with Alec you know?"
"Stop it Jake. I know that, don't I? I lost Rose before she'd even met him, it's nothing new you know."
"I hope you're not gonna be a complete misery on Christmas Day? We had enough with Rose being upset last year. You're still upset she got married and weren't invited."
"No-one was invited Jake. Alec finally did the right thing and married her, albeit as the baby was about to put in an appearance but better late than never," Pete joined in. He neglected to say though that Jackie had played a big part in it.
He knew Mickey had never got over losing Rose, even back in their old world and he'd chosen to stay behind but he'd been keen enough to go warn them of the Cybermen and pleased when Rose had been brought here. Then, they'd gone on holiday last year and Rose had stayed in Broadchurch – with the twin of the man Mickey had always been jealous of.
Alec had reluctantly left their son for Jackie to feed and fuss over him and retreated to their room, Rose thought to unpack but he had other ideas to make good use of the time, he knew exactly how long it took to feed, wind and change Zack. They had a good hour at least. He made his move on his wife, going up behind her and feeling under her t-shirt.
"Ah, you want to play?"
"Oh yes love, I want to play, after you've snogged my face off."
Just under an hour later, Rose had persuaded him that playtime was over and they had to get unpacked. They went back downstairs to find they had company in the guise of Mickey and Jake. Alec was not a big fan of Rose's one-time boyfriend, even though it was a long time go, especially when he was holding his son and making faces at him, watched by a smiling Jackie.
Alec often got the feeling that his mother-in-law had wanted Mickey to take that role but Rose had made it clear that had never been going to happen even if they'd not met. In Alec's eyes, Mickey and Rose were about as likely as he and Miller having a non-existent affair, while Rose had been around. It didn't stop him feeling jealous though. Jake on the other hand was a different matter altogether and he could see the other man was dying to get Zack from his friend but Mickey wasn't about to let go.
Alec sat next to Rose, taking her hand. Rose felt sorry for him, she thought it must bring back memories of him spending time with Daisy. They had talked while upstairs of maybe trying for another baby for next Christmas, if they were lucky. Rose had said that would be perfect. Jake finally got Mickey to part with the baby, who was by now wide awake and probably wondering who was fighting over him so when Jake picked him up, Zack decided enough was enough, Alec getting up and taking him.
The baby immediately went quiet again, Rose had noticed how Alec seemed to be their son's favourite, when he was at home. All Mickey could do was stare open-mouthed. Alec and Rose retreated back to their room to settle Zack for a nap and just lay together for a while before facing the family dinner.
"You hate this don't you Alec?"
"No, what makes you think that?"
"This was a big mistake, we should have stayed at home, with Ellie and the boys."
Alec hovered over her. "No love, you needed to be with your family, I know that."
"We could have invited Daisy to come with us."
"It was too much, she's only just getting used to you love. If we have another addition to our family next year, we are definitely staying home."
"Yeah, I know, just expect my mum to come to us."
She saw the look on his face. "Just joking teddy."
"I hope so princess, I don't think I could cope with that, it was bad enough before you had Zack."
Rose remembered him coming home just before she'd gone in hospital when he had been caught out trying to snog Rose as he'd realized he was being watched.
Alec went down later to get Zack's bottle and to see what time dinner was, he was going to make sure he got to feed his son this time. Sitting in the rocking chair Pete had got for them, Alec sat patiently while the baby took his milk, Rose insisted no solids before he was put down for the night. She sat on the edge of the bed, watching her husband.
"Nothing teddy, I'm trying to decide who's the cutest, it's a draw."
"I'm glad you see it that way princess."
The next day was going to test Alec's patience to the limits – taking Tony shopping on the busiest day of the year and leaving his son with his grandmother and he didn't know which was going to be the worse. It wasn't like he didn't leave Rose and the baby while he went to work but leaving him with Jackie was ten times worse. He knew he was never like this over Daisy, a nervous wreck every time he had to leave but it occurred to him it was the fear of losing the both of them when Rose came back into his life.
Apart from Rose's stay in hospital, they had never been apart since and he couldn't stand the thought of her even getting Miller to watch the baby while they went out but sometimes for his sanity he'd had to agree before Rose drove him crazy, as much as he loved her. Playing with Zack after breakfast, Alec finally handed him over to Jackie, the latter giving him the look that said she'd raised two of her own and was quite capable of taking care of the child.
Alec just managed to find a parking space in the crowded shopping mall, Rose saying they should have got a ride there and be picked up, they wandered around the shops, splitting up to get each other something and Tony wanting to go with Alec, which Alec wasn't so sure about. When they'd left Rose, Alec was looking in a jeweller's window at some watches as Tony looked at him.
"You won't tell Rose what I bought her, will you Tony?" he asked, asking the assistant to put the watch he'd chosen in a gift box.
"No, I won't tell."
"Rose will be better this year Tony, she won't be sad like the last one."
"I tried to cheer her up and so did Mickey, Mickey thought it was because it reminded her of another Christmas, before I was born."
"Which one was that then?"
"He didn't say but I think it was before mum met my dad."
Rose had never really talked about her past life much, she'd only told him the basics of growing up on a London council estate and about this Doctor she used to know. Now he was curious as to why Rose had never talked about it.
"Well Tony, we have Zack this Christmas so she will be happy this year. Time to go find her eh? What did you get for him?"
Alec chuckled to himself and ruffled Tony's hair. "Good choice, every baby boy should have at least one train. I expect you will help him with it?"
"Yeah, mum said dad should have helped me pick something else."
"Never mind, he'll be able to play with it next year."
While Alec and Tony were choosing Rose's present, Rose was debating between a tablet PC and digital recorder for Alec. He'd expressed a wish for either but she knew she would have to show him how to use the tablet, hers was different and he could only use it if the icon explained what each 'App' did so she asked the assistant in the electrical store which was the easiest to use for her technophobic husband and was shown a fairly simple model where if the user got stuck, they could get help.
She found Tony and Alec waiting in the café area and kissed Alec's cheek.
"All done love?"
"Yeah, you two look pleased with yourselves. We just have to go get Zack's now, you can help Tony."
"Cool!" the boy grinned, hoping they would get something for him as well, he was now into jigsaw puzzles, much to his mother's dismay as she found pieces down the side of her plush red sofa all the time and had meant to have words with the staff for not finding them before she did.
Jackie was in her element looking after her grandson, Pete had retreated to his office to make sure everyone knew what they were doing while he was away but joined her in the family room as she was watching Zack playing with a soft toy.
"We could have had more Jaks, if you'd wanted?"
"I'm happy with Tony, never thought I'd have any more after Rose. I wish we'd see more of Zack though, them being so far away."
"I know love, they come up as often as they can, with Alec's work. We can go down for a few days once the caravan park opens, Zack might be crawling by then, Rose will have her hands full."
"I swear Alec gets jealous every time I pick the baby up, does he think I'm gonna kidnap his son?"
Pete laughed. "Probably, it's just his way though, he's suspicious of everyone, well except Rose. Just think though, last year, they were both over 100 miles apart and both miserable, I can't imagine what it was like for him, Rose was bad enough. Even Mickey couldn't cheer her up."
"It probably reminded her of that Christmas with the Doctor. I wish she would tell Alec about it but she's adamant he never finds out the truth. Have you talked to Mickey and Jake, about not saying anything?"
"They know the drill, don't worry about them love, they won't say anything."
Mickey and Jake were not what they had to worry about.